Church child abuse scandals ‘tip of iceberg’ say real-life stars of Oscar-tipped film

L-R: Journalists Ben Bradlee, Jr., Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter Robinson attend a special screening of Open Road Films' "Spotlight" at The DGA Theater on November 3, 2015 in Los Angeles, California
L-R: Journalists Ben Bradlee, Jr., Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter Robinson attend a special screening of Open Road Films’ “Spotlight” at The DGA Theater on November 3, 2015 in Los Angeles, California

By Fiachra Gibbons

The child abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church are only the tip of the iceberg, the journalists who exposed one of the hierarchy’s biggest cover-ups said Wednesday. Walter Robinson and Mike Rezendes, who won the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering how the Church had hushed up the activities of nearly 90 paedophile priests in Boston, told AFP that thousands more have escaped justice in the United States alone.

With the Hollywood film “Spotlight” about their painstaking probe of the scandal for the Boston Globe newspaper nominated for six Oscars and a slew of other prizes, they said research showed between six and 10 percent of priests have abused children.

Robinson, who led the newspaper’s Spotlight investigative team, said they found that around one in 10 priests in Boston were molesters after “the Church was forced to make its records public.

“In many other places the numbers reported by the Church are very small because they have not been forced to tell the truth,” Robinson said.

“That is true in France and many other countries, and parts of the US also.” ‘Six percent are child abusers’

Experts at the University of Toronto and Royal Ottawa Healthcare group believe between 0.5 and 1 percent of the general population are paedophiles, although studies carried out in Germany, Norway and Finland have estimated that as many as five percent of men have had sexual thoughts about children.

A leading authority on clerical abuse, Richard Sipe — a former Benedictine monk — found around six percent of priests were abusers after a 25-year study into celibacy.

His book “Sex, Priests and Power” is cited in the film, which was voted best film at the Los Angeles Critics’ Choice Awards earlier this week — a reliable pointer to Oscar success.

Pope Francis said the Church itself estimates two percent of priests are paedophiles, according a private conversation he had in 2014 with an Italian journalist, details of which the Vatican later contested.

“This figure should calm me, but I must tell you it does not calm me at all,” the pope was quoted as telling the veteran founder of La Repubblica daily, Eugenio Scalfari.

While the Church’s attitude to such cases has changed radically since the election of Francis, who has vowed to root out abuse, Robinson and Rezendes suspect the culture of secrecy still runs deep.

“There have been big changes in how the Church deals with this in Boston,” said Robinson. “There are even classes for children in how to recognise molesters. But not so much (has been done) in other dioceses and around the world.”

Rezendes said the real problem was Church’s attitude to sex and its insistence on a celibate clergy.

“Because priests are people, many — maybe most — are having sex with women and men, and some with children. Because all sex is illegal in the eyes of the Church it is kept secret.

– Teachings on sex –

“A priest who is having sex with a woman or a man is not going to tell on a priest who is having sex with a child. Because all of it is wrong in the eyes of the Church, they protect one another,” he said.

Robinson — who is played by Michael Keaton in the film — admitted that part of the blame lay with the press for not holding the Church to account earlier.

He himself failed to follow through on a story about clerical abuse in Boston years before his Spotlight team launched their major inquiry in 2002.

“Our generation of editors were too deferential to the power and supposed moral standing of the Church. Clearly we missed clues,” he said.

“It was unthinkable that such an moral authority would allow and then cover up the crimes of thousands of priests for so many decades, and never care about what happened to the children.”

All four of the journalists who carried out the months-long inquiry are lapsed Catholics, and Robinson said it had shaken their confidence in the institution, if not his own faith.

The story also took a toll on the reporters and their families.

“It was very emotionally draining for us to listen to the stories of so many people whose lives were ruined as children. It was horrible. We carried this burden.

“My wife, who is a nurse, believes we had a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder. We were brought to tears by what many of the victims had to say.”

The Catholic Church, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, has broadly praised the film, with Vatican Radio calling it “honest and compelling”.

It said the Boston Globe reporters were “examples of their most pure vocation to find the facts” and demand that justice be done.

The Chilean film “The Club”, which handles the same sensitive subject, narrowly missed out on a Golden Globe earlier this month after winning the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

Complete Article HERE!

The Selective Outrage of the Anglican Church

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addresses the media during a press conference in Canterbury, England, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Anglican spiritual leader Justin Welby is set to lead a task force that will focus on rebuilding relationships after religious leaders temporarily restricted the role of the Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the U.S. church's acceptance of gay marriage. Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected Friday to explain the decision to bar Episcopalians from any policy-setting positions in the Anglican Communion for three years. The decision avoided a permanent split in the 85 million-member communion, though it dismayed liberal Anglicans.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, addresses the media during a press conference in Canterbury, England, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Anglican spiritual leader Justin Welby is set to lead a task force that will focus on rebuilding relationships after religious leaders temporarily restricted the role of the Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the U.S. church’s acceptance of gay marriage. Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected Friday to explain the decision to bar Episcopalians from any policy-setting positions in the Anglican Communion for three years. The decision avoided a permanent split in the 85 million-member communion, though it dismayed liberal Anglicans.

By  Jonathan Merritt

For the worldwide Anglican Communion, the world’s largest Protestant denomination, sexuality has become a line in the sand.

The Episcopal Church, Anglicanism’s American branch, was suspended on Thursday for three years for its willingness to consecrate same-sex marriages. But the punishment is not expected to dissuade Episcopalian leaders. As Jim Naughton, a communications consultant for the Episcopal Church said, “We can accept these actions with grace and humility but the Episcopal Church is not going back. We can’t repent what is not sin.”

But the denomination’s decision should not be interpreted as a theologically orthodox parent lovingly disciplining its rebellious child. Beneath the Anglican Communion’s actions against the Episcopal Church lies selective outrage, with the Episcopal Church being punished for its attempt to interpret doctrine, while unambiguous sins of other leaders have gone unaddressed.The Episcopal Church has been embroiled in controversy over LGBT issues since at least the mid-1970s, when it declared that gay men and lesbians “have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” It later moved to accept the ordination of LGBT clergy, even consecrating Gene Robinson as its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

During this same period, the Episcopal Church began bleeding worshippers—losing half its membership since 1966—with donations falling alongside. While some vibrant Anglican congregations began sprouting across America in recent years, many have chosen to sidestep the Episcopal Church and align with foreign bishops instead. The Episcopal Church has become a mangled mess of a denomination, divided among itself and drifting rapidly from its global compatriots.The final collision came last year when the Episcopal Church decided to officially bless same-sex marriages. For its more conservative leaders, this was a bridge too far.


So the vote to suspend the Anglican Communion’s U.S. arm on Thursday is only somewhat surprising. Many have predicted that some kind of schism is inevitable. But the way in which the vote occurred is deeply troubling. It passed by a two-thirds majority and “included prominent voices among African bishops who have loudly condemned the American church for its liberal stance on gays.”Africa is a continent that is regressive, even oppressive, in its treatment of LGBT persons. In approximately 70 countries, including 34 in Africa, gays and lesbians can be imprisoned for years or even receive life sentences. In Nigeria, it is illegal for LGBT people to hold meetings or form clubs. In countries like Somalia, they can be executed by the state under Sharia law. In Mauritania, men convicted of homosexual acts can be stoned to death. In Angola, cross-dressing will earn you jail time. And famously, Uganda offers life sentences for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” whatever that means. An earlier version of their anti-gay bill allowed for the death penalty.Anglicans maintain strong presences in many of these countries, and Christian religious leaders, including Anglicans, have supported the oppressive treatment of gays and lesbians there. Uganda’s anti-gay law, for example, was backed by its Anglican Church. Such laws are wildly out of step with any ethical code bearing the label “Christian.”

The public and private support of such laws by African Anglican leaders is inexcusable. But instead of being defrocked, these prelates have maintained full participation in the Anglican Communion and have even led the charge to single out the Episcopal Church for punishment. This year, African Anglicans celebrated the appointment of a Nigerian Bishop to the prestigious role of secretary general, despite his history of support for the criminalization of homosexuality.Jesus compared the Pharisees to “whitewashed tombs” that “look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, called out her church’s similar inconsistency:

This is not how Anglicans should behave. It’s awful. It’s a terrible outcome to the meeting of the primates in Canterbury. What action will now be taken against all those churches in the Anglican Communion who treat gay men and women as criminals? Will they be suspended for three years, too?

Likely not. The Anglican Communion is selective in its outrage.

Christians of mutual goodwill can and should have full-throated debates over whether same-sex unions constitute a violation of Christian doctrine and practice. But there is simply no moral equivalency between marrying a gay couple and sentencing them to rot in jail. Focusing on the former while overlooking the latter epitomizes what Jesus referred to as looking at the sawdust in your brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own.

If the Anglican Communion wishes to scrutinize the Episcopal Church’s positions on homosexual marriage, then those branches outside of the United States need to get their own houses in order. Otherwise, the Anglican Communion will not just be the world’s largest Protestant denomination. It may also be the world’s largest body of hypocrites.

Complete Article HERE!

The Man Who Buried Them Remembers

By Mark S. King


When he conducted the funerals, Tom Bonderenko tells me, he always wore his priestly garments and white stole. Even when no one showed up for the graveside service.

“It was important to show dignity and respect,” Tom says. He taps the coffee cup in his lap nervously. “I’m sorry,” he says. He clears his throat but it doesn’t keep his eyes from welling up. “No one has asked me about this in a really long time.”

We are sitting in his office at Moveable Feast, the Baltimore meal delivery agency for those with life-threatening illnesses, where Tom has served as director for the last eight years. His office is spacious and cheerful, but this conversation is a difficult one. He had discreetly closed his office door behind me when I arrived.

When Moveable Feast was founded in 1989 to deliver meals to home-bound AIDS patients, Tom was engaged in a different, more literal ministry to the disenfranchised. He was a priest staffing a homeless shelter for Catholic Charities of Baltimore. It was there he met someone with AIDS for the first time.

“A young man came to the door of the emergency shelter, sometime in 1987,” he says. “He was covered in black marks. Lesions, you know. Everywhere. He said he needed to clean up before his first doctor appointment the next day.”

Tom had grown up in New York City, and as a gay man he had known people who died very suddenly, as far back as the early 1980’s. But he had never stood face to face with someone so ill with the dreaded disease.

I couldn’t help but ask Tom how he felt, meeting that person.

TomTom stares out his office window, and his eyes are so beautiful, romantically blue, framed with creases of worry. The eyes of a priest. He turns back to me with an answer. “Here was a young man who was going to find out from a doctor the next day that he had AIDS,” he manages. He starts tapping his coffee cup again, and he bows his head reverently. “And he was about to be told that he was going to die.”

Tom never saw the young man again.

People with AIDS became more common at the shelter before long. Tom got to know the regulars, and they began to ask him to perform their funeral services.

“They just wanted to know they would be buried,” he says quietly. “They didn’t want or need anything religious. Most of them were estranged from their families, drug abuse, that sort of thing. I think they were embarrassed to reach out to relatives. Sometimes, when they died we would find a member of the family to come, but usually it was just me and the departed at the gravesite.”

The burials were performed at unmarked graves in a lonely section of Baltimore Cemetery. The caskets were as charity required, simple wooden boxes, and they always contained a body. The funeral home would not cremate someone who died from AIDS because they were afraid of poisoning the air.

“I would always conduct the service out loud,” says Tom, now sharing the sacred details. “I would speak about the departed, and say what I knew of them, about where they were from. And then I would ask if anyone present had been harmed by the departed…”

I imagined Tom, in his vestments and alone in a forgotten graveyard, asking intimate questions out loud to the grass and the trees and the disinterested silence. “I would say that if the departed had harmed anyone,” he goes on, “for that person to please forgive them.” Tom’s voice falters. “And then I would ask the departed to forgive, too. I would tell them, ‘you’re on the other side now. Let it go.’”

Tom B-2Tom’s office becomes very still. I feel as if I’m holding my breath.

“I think they just didn’t want to be alone,” Tom says, and now he looks at me without regard for his tears. “We don’t do this alone.”

Because of you, I think to myself. They weren’t alone because of you, Tom.

“I’m so sorry,” he says, again, wiping his face. “I haven’t talked about this in so long.” He considers the faraway scene he has conjured, his graveside questions to no one, and then adds, “It was the most important, meaningful thing I have ever done.”

I wonder aloud if the experience bolstered his religious faith or challenged it instead. He looks surprised by the question. “Well,” he answers after a moment, “I believe it strengthened my faith. Yes.” I want very much to believe him.

Tom left Catholic Charities, and the priesthood, not long after he conducted the last of his burials for the homeless. A decade later he joined Moveable Feast and embraced its mission to provide sustenance for people in need, people like those to whom he once ministered.

Tom’s fellow staff members know little about his life a generation ago. Most of them aren’t aware of the aching memories beneath the calm surface of their sensitive and capable boss. They may not fully understand why Tom leaves the office once a month to distribute food personally to homebound clients.

But they will tell you that when Tom Bonderenko returns from those deliveries, he always has tears in his eyes.


 Complete Article HERE!

Archdiocese of Seattle publishes names of child-sex abusers

Archdiocese of Seattle


The Archdiocese of Seattle has published a list of 77 child-sex abusers who served or lived in Western Washington over the past several decades.

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain on Friday apologized for the actions by clergy and religious brothers and sisters who abused minors. He said in a letter that he is disclosing the names “in the interest of further transparency and accountability” and to continue to encourage victims of sexual abuse by clergy to come forward.

The list includes cases where allegations of child sex abuse have been admitted, established or determined to be credible. The list took nearly two years to develop with the help of independent consultants and a review board of professionals who advise the archbishop on child sex abuse.

The 77 named in the list lived or served in Western Washington between 1923 and 2008.

“Most of the individuals on the list were past the statute of limitations,” said Greg Magnoni, Archdiocese of Seattle. “Although, they were all reported to law enforcement.”

“Bringing it out in the open is one giant step to help diminish the number and to hold predators accountable and to help keep children safe,” said Mary Dispenza, spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

“People want to think that this crisis of priest abuse is over. It isn’t. And there have been some gains and we need to celebrate those. But it would be a great big failing to think everything’s just fine now,” Dispenza added.

Sartain said the archdiocese has made efforts to respond to victims since the mid-1980s and thanked abuse survivors who have come forward.

The Archdiocese of Seattle asks anyone who has knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy to call the archdiocesan hotline at 1-800-446-7762.

Complete Article HERE!

Episcopal leader: Church will not reverse gay marriage stand

Bishop Michael Curry
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks to churchgoers as he arrives at the Washington National Cathedral in November. On Thursday, Anglican leaders temporarily restricted the role of the U.S. Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the American church’s acceptance of gay marriage.

The Associated Press reports:

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said Friday the U.S. Episcopal Church will not roll back its acceptance of gay marriage despite sanctions imposed this week by Anglican leaders.

In a phone interview from England, where he attended the gathering of top Anglican archbishops, Curry said he told his fellow leaders they should expect no change. The top Episcopal legislative body, called General Convention, last year voted overwhelmingly to authorize same-sex marriage ceremonies in church. In response, Anglican leaders Thursday stripped the Episcopal Church of any role in deciding doctrine or determining how the Anglican Communion operates for three years, effectively reducing the church to observer status in the 85 million-member global fellowship.

“They heard from me directly that that’s not something that we’re considering,” Curry said. “They basically understand we made our decision, and this is who we are, and we’re committed to being a house of prayer for all.”

Curry said the church was resolved to work toward building acceptance of same-sex relationships throughout the Anglican fellowship, which the Episcopal Church represents in the United States. A majority of Anglican leaders at the meeting affirmed the teaching that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman.

“We are loyal members of the Anglican Communion, but we need to say we must find a better way,” Curry said. “I really believe it’s part of our vocation.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Anglican family, had organized the assembly in Canterbury to help avoid a split in the fellowship that had been building for decades over differences about homosexuality, women’s ordination and other issues.

Those rifts blew wide open in 2003 when the New York-based Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire. Ever since, theological conservatives, led by Anglican leaders in Africa, have demanded some penalty for the U.S. church. Many have distanced themselves from the Episcopal Church and in 2009 helped form an alternative to the U.S. denomination, called the Anglican Church in North America.

Welby does not have the authority to force a resolution of the conflict.

In their statement from this week’s meeting, Anglican leaders called the Episcopal Church approval of gay marriage “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching” of the majority of Anglicans. As a result, Episcopalians “no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies,” and could not vote or fully participate in Anglican committees, the leaders said.

The statement also included a condemnation of “homophobic prejudice and violence” and rejected criminalization of homosexuality, which has become common in African countries.

“For me, it is a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality,” Welby said at a news conference in Canterbury Cathedral, at the end of the meeting. He expressed “how sorry I am for the hurt and pain in the past and present that the church has caused and the love sometimes that we have completely failed to show.”

Outside, gay rights demonstrators, many from Africa, waved signs and sang. “We are here talking about human beings, real people who are having their lives torn apart,” said Jayne Ozanne, a leading gay rights activist in the church.

Anglicans, who trace their roots to the Church of England, are the third-largest grouping of Christians in the world, behind Roman Catholics and Orthodox.

The Anglican Church of Canada is scheduled to vote in July on a proposal that would change church law to allow same-sex marriage. If the change is approved, it would have to be reaffirmed at the church’s next legislative meeting, or General Synod, in three years. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who attended the Canterbury gathering, said the penalty for the Episcopal Church will be a major consideration.

“Obviously, this whole thing will weigh pretty heavily on the minds of people going into the General Synod,” Hiltz said in an interview. “If we vote for a change in the canon on marriage there will be some consequence.”

At the news conference, Welby underscored that the meeting had averted any break and that the Anglican leaders “unanimously indicated that they wanted the churches of the Anglican Communion to walk together.” He announced the next once-a-decade meeting of all Anglican bishops, called the Lambeth Conference, would take place in 2020, an announcement he had delayed as he worked to keep the communion together.

Both Welby and Curry said there had been no discussion of the specifics of this process or what would have to happen over the next three years for the Episcopalians to be restored to full participation in the global fellowship. Anglican conservatives, who have affiliated as the Global Anglican Future Conference, said they were pleased with the penalty against the Episcopal Church, but were concerned that the sanctions didn’t go far enough and that Anglican leaders did not clearly state what the consequences would be if the Episcopal Church failed to change its position on gay marriage.